On the surface, games may seem to have little to do with climate change. But games can create the opportunity for people to grapple with complex, abstract issues like climate change in individualized and concrete ways.
And the concept is catching on. Developers of the wildly popular “Angry Birds,” which has been downloaded 2.8 billion times, announced that they will be releasing in September 2015 their “Champions for Earth” level, which focuses on raising awareness of climate change.
Climate change is predicted to hit Asia hard, likely causing typhoons, floods, famine and rising sea levels that will put millions of people at risk. Yet it’s difficult for individuals — regardless of social, economic or political status — to envision scenarios of climate resilience that would protect themselves, their families, communities and countries. It is particularly important for youth, who face a challenging future because of climate change, to be a part of developing solutions.
“Games for Change,” a movement toward using digital games to spur social change, holds promise in helping people, especially youth, explore timely, critical topics — and has proven popular. For example, a video game called “Papers, Please” immerses players in a world of immigration issues, has won a number of awards and has been downloaded half a million times.
To get ahead of environmental disasters and build resilience, we must engage and educate our youth — tomorrow’s leaders and decision-makers.
Development and technology practitioners from FHI 360 and a consortium of South and Southeast Asian university climate researchers, urban planners, disaster risk reduction specialists and game developers are exploring how games for change can be optimally used to address climate change in Asia. FHI 360’s ultimate goal — to develop a climate resilience game — has the potential to spread virally among youth across the region.
Whether or not games will save the planet remains to be seen, but games may well create a new generation of social activists, especially when it comes to climate change.
A technology adviser at FHI 360’s TechLab, Wayan Vota is convinced that information and communications technology can accelerate the social and economic advancement of the developing world. Previously, he was senior staff at Development Gateway, Inveneo and IESC Geekcorps, and a consultant to infoDev at the World Bank. He co-founded Kurante, ICTworks, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, Technology Salon, Educational Technology Debate and OLPC News.
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